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Saturday, July 9th, 2005 1:54 PM

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By Mark Rankin


Once upon a time there was a singer who wrote songs that included lyrics so personally attached to his mind, central nervous system, and body that he was horrified to sing these songs publicly... He did anyway and became a life long ''... wrangler of emotions...'' (Quote: Joe S. Harrington, The Edge, CBW, 2002)

In the Summer of 2001 I had just moved to Portland to share a home with my brother Dave. We partied this town down many a night... Ha! The memories... While Dave was on tour with 6gig, however, I found myself drawn to The Breakaway Lounge on my way home alone one hot night. I walked in to find The Maine Songwriters Showcase. The Maine Songwriters Association (MSA) was then in its infancy of 30 or so members. I like all kinds of music and wanted to check this out. I wanted to play too, having performed up and down the east coast of the U.S. over a twenty-three year span and being a Maine Native, I felt I might have found a place to hang my hat.

It was then as I ordered a beer that a young pretty woman stepped up on the stage and greeted her audience," ...I'm Abi Tapia, and this is The Maine Songwriters Showcase...'' She went on to explain that the event was a weekly happening put on by MSA and included all local singer songwriters and all original music. She started her set with Back to Back, and then with a liberating song, Calamine Lotion, that included the line," I've got a bullet here for you to bite..." These lyrics were so intimately personal I bought her CD straight-away and have enjoyed it ever since. Great talent in expressing music and clever lyrical content.

Now Hailing from Austin, Texas Abi Tapia is undoubtedly part of one of the richest music scenes in the world. She travels nationally still, and landed in Portland in June to play a show at Acoustic Coffee on Danforth St. for an MSA Showcase (Abi will always be considered local). She's still absolutely terrific.

Abi Tapia's new fully and tastefully produced CD, One Foot Out the Door is now released and available at Bull Moose Music, CD Baby, and at her site, abitapia.com. I'm unwrapping the CD... hehehe...the package is of big label quality and is hard to unwrap... rrrrrrrrrrrrr!...there!(relief)... the plastic wrapper hits the floor( this is better than sex! hmmmmm....well ...?) The CD is in the player! (The anticipation is making me crazy!)

Ah, sweet acoustic guitar that has obviously been produced by experienced hands and ears (Chris Cage at Moonhouse Studio for production, and Jim Wilson of Yes Mastering, both hailing from Austin Texas). Tapia sings, " I think Love is like employment at will/ anyone can leave at any time for any reason/when I said I quit I guess what I meant was/ I want a raise and another weeks vacation." and the chorus," I cried wolf you came runnin' I knew you cared for me..." Cried Wolf is a work to be enjoyed by listeners everywhere. The music on this song is of the best of quality... WOW!

Music lovers, you just have to hear these strong backbeats and melodies. Nothin' To Hold Me Down is a solid tune as well and speaks of Tapia's love of the road, and to hell with the run down house, life, and general confines most people conform to one way or another,"... I just like the feeling of drivin' to some place unknown where there's nothin' to hold me down." Iowa slows things down, and that's always a perfect moment for Tapia to use her pipes to blow the listener away... Where was I? Big Front Porch is Tapia beholding to a dreamer that spends the late afternoons with sunsets, stories, and music... Happiness. Then, Calamine Lotion, "I am here with my calamine lotion/you are there with your broken heart..."Later, the chorus," Baby, listen to me to me/ I know it's going to be all right/ You are strong despite the fact/ that you never learned how to fight/ I've got a bullet here for you to bite." What an intellectual approach to express the idea. Tapia really puts it out there with no shortness of cleverness. For a While is an example of the thematic rambling recurrences as Tapia's restless side moves this awesome tune into reality. Selective Memory is a song of dealing with hurt. The Way to My Heart is a cupid's arrow thing, and Hand Over Your Heart is confrontational. A girl can only take so much and the scene takes place in a bar. Tapia's character has been in a relationship with the bar tender and wants an answer... Now! " ... She fired off 2 more shots (whiskey no doubt)/ and told them all to get on the floor... Hand over you heart and no one gets hurt..." Drive Away, and Lone Star are Break up songs. Somewhere to Go speaks of her home. "...Got no devil tryin' to make me a deal... " Chorus," So come on inside I've got nothin to hide but I don't have much to show/ What there is to be seen it ain't pretty it ain't clean/ I'll admit that I've started slow/ But at least I've got some place to go.

''August 13th, at Acoustic Coffee, Abi Tapia comes back home again as part of her national tour (that never seems to end).
Thank you Abi Tapia for your inspiring dedication and talent from the,'' wrangler of emotions'' (aka Mahhhk!). One Foot Out the Door blows my hat completely off!

 

Friday, November 2nd, 2001 1:50 PM

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The Portland Phoenix
Volume 3, Number 43 | November 2, 2001

Carefree highway: Abi Tapia goes to look for America

By Josh Rogers

The police report reads something like this: Stolen - various clothing, backpack, portable CD player, 20 CDs (Lyle Lovett, Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer, the Dixie Chicks), camera, French pottery, soft guitar case, 50 copies of the new Abi Tapia album, and one notebook (with two years of songs in it). The victim - A singer-songwriter on a six-week, self-booked tour.

"Gone," says Tapia sadly. The biggest loss, of course, the irreplaceable notebook chock-a-block full of lyrics. "I'm hoping it will be good in the end," she says. "Maybe always staring at those verses I didn't like was stopping me from writing new ones."

The songs that remain intact, the ones on her debut album proper, This Life Will be Mine, reveal a voice that knows all too well the value of change, of leaving the known behind in search of the open road or the blank page. In "I'm not Listening," Tapia explores the unhealthy impulse to bolt for the door when things get too close: "Oh, but your hands on my back/Oh, your lips on my neck/Your fingers in my curls," she moans, betraying her desire to stay before she steels her will and walks out the door. "Words in my ear/Telling every part of me that I should stay here/And I'm not listening."

"Precious Things" finds the singer cursed with wanderlust again. Contemplative djembe patterings buoy a somewhat melancholy song and give a slightly upbeat cast to lyrics resigned to goodbyes: "The sky is clearing up now/And the roads are, too/West wind blowin' at my back/This morning instead of your face I saw the dawn/I have nothing to fear/There is nothing to make me stay/I'll pack my precious things/And send 'em on home to you someday."

The songs on the disc are solid nuggets of songcraft - distinct, evocative, and at times sensual. On occasion they feel a bit bare (as opposed to nude). Recorded with Jeff Ciampa and a handful of session guys in Columbus, Ohio, the band more often than not lays back, letting Tapia's voice drive the mood. Occasionally, though, the band's too quiet and unmemorable.

Briefly ditching the boys for the intensely up-close "Bottom of Texas," Tapia uses only her voice and an absently strummed guitar to bring you inside her world. Suddenly, as if a nervous actor has been pushed into the spotlight from offstage, a reedy clarinet stumbles into the scene. From there, the singer and the clarinet weave around each other in a lonely embrace. Although Tapia writes in several distinct voices, instrumentation like this (and the Wurlitzer on the spitfire "Motion Sickness") allows them to breathe and come alive (and break out of the trad singer-songwriter girl ghetto - she thanks Sark, joy, and contra dancing in her liner notes).

The clarinetist? Tapia's mom - a classically trained musician (Abi had to cajole her into loosening up and improvising). Her mom even played a show with her when Abi rolled into Ohio Wesleyan, near Mom's current home of Delaware, Ohio (outside Columbus), on tour. "I'm trying to convince her to go on the road with me," says Tapia excitedly. "Because I never have any sort of embellishment."

She knows this sort of collaboration is good for her own songwriting process. One of the biggest things she got out of her latest cross-country jaunt was a network of like-minded musicians. Connecting to these other labels, booking agents, and singers was the whole point of attending the Nashville New Music Conference on the last leg of her trip. It's a bummer then, that that was precisely when someone smashed her car window and stole her press kits. She was literally handing out photocopies of the one business card in her back pocket, she laughs. But she met a lot of good people.

"Did I tell you about the exercise room in Nashville?" she smiles. "At the conference there wasn't much chance to do any song-swapping. So late at night we'd get together and play for each other. One night we were playing in the Ramada Inn lounge but the muzak was too loud.

"We knew that there was an exercise room that didn't have the muzak, so we convinced a security guard to let us in. But it was really cramped with equipment. So here we were in this tiny mirrored room, folky singer-songwriters sitting around on stationary bikes and stairmasters, playing songs for each other," she says.

The sleepover camaraderie continues, "We smuggled in a case of beer in a guitar case - totally mafia style - but then we spilled some, and we're like 'Oh no, what do we do!?' There were these towels, so we soaked it up with that, but then we were like [panicking] 'What do we do with the beer towels?!?' "

This is precisely the community that Tapia has been running around the country trying to find. Turns out, they're all doing the same thing. Traveling doesn't have to be about running away - in this case, it's bringing her closer to her peers. She says her time away is allowing her to look at Portland with "fresh eyes." Then again, she just wrote a song that starts off "I never want to be where I am."

Friday, September 28th, 2001 2:02 PM

S and B logo

Abi Tapia returns to town

Recent grad shares her music in an intimate show

By Sabrina Ross
Staff Writer

"House performances are my favorite, " Abi Tapia said to someone while chatting with audience members before the show started. A Grinnell alumni of 1998, Abi Tapia was back in Grinnell for a two-set performance in a friend's apartment on Wednesday night. This is her third house performance she's done in the three weeks of her tour so far. With candles scattered around the room for lighting, and several couches, two chairs, a bed and the floor providing the seating, the audience was prepared for a friendly, intimate show. The show play list included songs from her cd, This Life Will Be Mine, covers of Gillian Welch and Patti Griffin, and one of the songs from the country musical that she's in the process of writing.

Tapia currently lives in Maine, but she plans to move in the near future. "I want a bigger place, and I want to be around more musicians, for inspiration, and for community," explained Tapia. She's considering cities like New York, Boston, and Austin, where she hopes to be able to fully support herself by profits made from performing. When she's not touring, Tapia says that she "waits tables to play the bills."

Currently, Tapia is in the midst of her longest tour so far in her career, covering parts of the east coast, the Midwest, and the south. After a few more shows in Iowa, Tapia will be heading to Texas for the next leg of her tour.

Tapia began singing during 1996, her sophomore year here at Grinnell, and by her senior year, Tapia started taking off during her fall and spring breaks to tour. Today she plays mostly within her home state of Maine, and frequently goes on short tours around New England. "Right now I'm plugging away, writing songs, finding better venues…I'm not looking for a record contract or anything," Tapia said. Following the completion of her current tour, Tapia will attend a music conference in Nashville before returning home.

Many Grinnell students hope to make Tapia's visits to campus a yearly occasion.

A few townspeople and professors as well as students attended Wednesday's performance. Before the show began, Tapia's academic advisor from Grinnell, Kent McClelland, approached her and asked "You're doing what you've dreamed of doing?" and Tapia replied, smiling, "Exactly!"

 

Wednesday, June 6th, 2001 1:58 PM

Harbor Voices


Songwriter Abi Tapia - Powerful Voice, Sensual Lyrics (and We're Listening!)


Peer Review by Jason Wilkins

My fellow singer-songwriter Abi Tapia has claimed an unusual pair of influences upon her music: Ani Difranco and Dolly Parton. What do these two women have in common besides Abi's admiration? At least three things: bracing honesty, a frank sensuality, and no interest in taking any guff just because they are women. Abi shares these attributes with Ani and Dolly, as her album, "This Life Will Be Mine" demonstrates.


Abi's greatest strength is her voice, a powerful instrument capable of Ani-worthy bluster and wail, as well as Dolly-style folksiness. Her songs are built around fairly standard folk/country chord progressions. On "This Life Will Be Mine," producer Jeff Ciampa has framed Abi's guitar and voice with spare acoustic arrangements - light percussion, bass and the occasional flourish on the Wurlitzer.


In Abi's best songs she sounds torn between the urge for going and the longing for love. "I'm gonna pack my precious things and leave you here," she sings on one track, but on "Galesburg" she takes the opposite tack: "It's three hours to Galesburg, get in the car/ I miss you baby, so don't be late." In "Back to Back," the singer compromises between leaving and staying: "Tomorrow I'll drive back home/ and you know you're gonna miss me either way/so why would you sleep alone?"


Abi's artistically fruitful romantic indecision reaches a peak on "I'm Not Listening." Abi wrings every ounce of emotion out of the almost unbearable sensual final verse: "Oh, but your hands on my back/ oh, but your lips are on my neck/ oh, our ankles are entwined/ oh, your stomach pressed to mine/ fingers in my curls/ your words in my ear/ telling every part of me that I should stay here…and I'm not listening." (Hard to see why not.)


Abi rarely writes a dull lyric - note the way the verses to "Chocolate" pile up detailed images with great economy - and thus far, her musical skills are lagging a bit behind her verbal acuity. She sometimes attempts to hang five verses on a melody that only remains interesting for three. (Then again, Ani and Dolly have been known to do the same thing.)


I admit to a certain bias - being no stranger to Abi, being thanked in the liner notes - but I consider "This Life Will Be Mine" a remarkably mature piece of work by a songwriter still relatively new to her craft. She gave me one copy for free, and then I was happy to pay for a second. She may not be listening, but as long as she sings, other people will be.
Thursday, April 26th, 2001 1:59 PM

The Other Paper Logo

"Suprisingly forceful (and suprisingly randy)." 

Tuesday, February 6th, 2001 1:56 PM

Face Magazine


Local Reviews
By Paul Woodfin

this life will be mine
Abi Tapia

We try not to judge a book by it's cover but Abi Tapia definitely got our attention with the packaging of her new CD this life will be mine. In this limited edition (300) CD Tapia has produced a work that is pleasing both to hold and to listen to. Her self-assembled CD cover is simple and quirky - serrated "brown bag" liner notes with vague sepia-ish photos, a little glass star was attached to the front of the copy we received, and a button and string to close the cover - but the finished product conveys Abi's care for detail, the sensibility of a pro and speaks volumes of who she is. And so with the music contained within.


One is struck immediately by the simplicity. Simple arrangements. Simple melodies. Simple chord progressions. Put it all together and the effect is one of wit, power, polish and, yes, a beautiful simplicity. Tapia and producer/bass, Jeff Ciampa have focused on a cleanness throughout begging the listener to zero in on the stories Abi has to tell. Whether she's describing the exhaustion of unrequited giving and giving to a relationship, finally giving up, packing up her "Precious Things" and hitting the road, or in "I'm Not Listening" the duality of wanting to stay with a lover for the night, but needing to be convinced, to be seduced, or the metaphor of "Motion Sickness" for a need to escape a one-sided romance, Tapia's songs are laced with a sexual angst and tension that leave the listener wanting to tune in for the sequel to see how it all turns out. But then in "Chocolate" Abi sings I don't have a thing for chocolate I said but I have a thing for you/ so if I get distracted well just throw me in the ocean/ and feed me berries till I turn blue/ and baby everything will be fine/ and again this life will be mine. And one know that everything's gonna turn out fine.
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